Monday, July 14, 2008

Welcome to me

I will admit this right off the bat: I know life is easier for me than many other single parents. But I don't want to discredit myself and say that life as a single mom is a cake-walk. My daughter and I live with my parents in the home I grew up in. I live rent-free and my parents do most of the grocery shopping. And yet I still feel the strain of bringing up my daughter without the support of a spouse. I love living with my folks, not just for monetary reasons, but because my daughter gets to spend so much time with her grandparents. She loves greeting them when they come home and covering them with hugs and kisses at bedtime. They enforce the rules that I have for my daughter and she respects them the way she does me, yet she knows that they are her grandparents and I am her mother.

My ex-husband and I are still on good speaking terms, so I won't bad-mouth him here. I will, however, post menial complaints just to vent my frustration. But to keep the peace and maintain my daughter's emotional stability, I never say a harsh word about my ex if it could come back to my daughter. For that reason, if I mention my ex, I will use the pseudonym "Jake." "Jake" lives in another state, so every summer, my daughter, "Em," visits him for 5-6 weeks. She also visits him on Thanksgiving every other year, and Christmas the alternate years. He calls her about once a month, and if she ever wants to call him, we almost always end up leaving a message on his voicemail. But more often than not, when she says "I want my daddy" or "I miss my daddy," it's because she's trying to get out of picking up her toys or brushing her teeth. I'll blog about how we deal with that another time.

I work full-time and make decent money...if I was just supporting myself. However, because in addition to car payments, insurance, gas for my car and my cell phone bill, I also have my daughter's pre-kindergarten tuition, dance lessons, swim classes and her clothes, having our own place isn't a reality. My take-home pay after taxes, 401(k), health insurance, and life insurance is enough to afford a studio apartment for my daughter and I, if only we didn't need to eat or need electricity. Such is the life of living in Orange County. When I was going through my divorce, my parents offered to let my daughter and me live with them until I could find a place of my own. Three years later, they've seen the prices of housing go up and would rather have me here with them than living in a scary part of town where I need three deadbolts. So, rather than have a place of my own, I live with my parents and save money.

I've thought about moving out of Orange County, possibly out of California. But my family is here. My church is here. It was hard enough moving out of state to be with my then-husband and his family. The only people I knew were his immediate family. When we decided that we were getting divorced, "Jake" told me to move back with my family, that he knew how much I loved and missed and needed them. My family and my church are my support system, and I don't know where I would be without them. I have a few friends across the country, but to uproot myself again would be hard, and it would be especially tough on "Em." The only life she knows is here in Orange with my parents and me. We moved back home during the divorce when she was just 16 months old; she has no memory of "Jake" and I being married and living together. This house we live in is her world, and to take her away from her family and church and friends at this age would upset her whole balance.

I've dated two men in the 3 years since my divorce, each for only a couple of months. I find it hard to date when my life revolves around "Em." I work, bring "Em" home, help get dinner ready, put "Em" to bed, then I'm just plain tired. And since I live with my folks, I do have live-in babysitters, but I try not to ask them to watch my daughter more than a couple of times a month, and when my part-time job has me out a few nights a month, it's hard to get out. And it's not like I'm the best pick in town. How would my personal ad run? "Divorced mom of one seeks single guy to be available whenever I am, but doesn't expect me to be available when he is. Must love kids that aren't his and must want to come second in priority." Yeah, not so much. I'm trying to believe that when I'm supposed to be with the right guy, I'll meet him.

Well, it's time I headed to bed. My hope is to post once a week. It might be more if I have a particularly hard day.

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